22nd May to 28th May
After a busy week in civilisation we decided we needed a break from the hussle and bustle, so together with our friends the Leed’s we decided to head out to Ross River Resort and onto Ruby Gap National Park which are both located in the East Macdonnell Ranges.
We headed out for the very short 70km drive to Ross River Resort, which is not really a resort, more of a pub and camping grounds with basic facilities, although they did have a pool. Nik and I couldn’t help but keep thinking of Ross River Fever, something our NSW friends hadn’t heard of. Funnily enough when we were looking around the old home and pub there was an old article cut out and framed about how everyone links this Ross River to the Ross River Fever and they always have to reassure people it has nothing to do with them!!!! After we set up camp Nik headed back to the pub to watch the Pies play on the big screen TV while I sat back at camp and read my book.
The next day we headed out on a very short drive of 11km to N’Dhala Gorge National Park. Although the sign said the road was closed, we had spoken to other campers who said they had gone up there that day and it was an easy drive as long as you had a 4WD with high clearance. So that being said off we headed with snacks, water and towels (just in case there was water). N’Dhala Gorge is an important site for the Eastern Arrernte people and contains over 5,900 individual rock carvings, art sites and other cultural significant sites. The age of the art is estimated to be between 2,000 and 10,000 years old and are connected to the Caterpillar Dreaming Story. The drive in was fine once we got past the bypass around the original creek crossing with it mostly being dirt road. Once we got to the campground we grabbed some lunch then set off on a small 2km return trip to the Gorge. The kids had worn their bathers and carried their towels JUST incase there was water…….. unfortunately there was none. Poor Zoe was adamant if she kept walking along the gorge and creek she would sniff out some water and was most put out when we called her back!! On the drive back we sat at the original creek crossing, it was quite deeper than the one we had crossed at and we ummed and ahhed as to whether to give it a go or not. We decided not to and in hindsight were happy with our decision as the manageress later told us that people were getting bogged there. Whilst the water wasn’t too deep, not far under the soft sand was the actual water table which was responsible for sinking and bogging quite a few cars (and the rescuing grading tractor) and also the reason why the road was closed….hehehe, oopsy 🙂
Our next adventure was a two night trip out to Ruby Gap Nature Park, but first we made a visit to the Artltunga Historical Reserve which was on our way. Arltunga was Central Australia’s official first town built to service the gold rush back in 1887. The historical reserve offers guided and self guided tours of the original buildings including the Police Station and old mine workings and a lovely shaded picnic area where we sat and ate our lunch before successfully hunting down a hidden Geocache.
We left Arltunga just after lunch for our 47km drive to Ruby Gap Nature Park, for the most part the drive was an easy dirt road but the last 25km slowed us down and we finally arrived an hour and a half later. We had been advised that the last bit of road was tough going so we decided to leave the vans back at Ross River and load up the car with swags, water and food for our adventure. After we had passed Atnarpa Homestead the road turned into a narrow rocky track with the occasional washout and many sharp rocks. The last 5km from the park entrance to camp was pretty much driving along the dry Hale River and over many a boulder, but we made it eventually and set about trying to work out the best place to set up camp. After a slight hiccup with Silverfox getting bogged in some soft sand in the river bed, we lowered tyre pressures yet again and got out the Maxtrax and easily maneuvered the car back onto hard ground. As it was getting late we hastily decided on a spot to throw out the swags and quickly set up, got the fire going and sat down with a drink while the kids explored their new surrounds.
Ruby Gap Nature Park is a remote park situated in the East Macdonnell Ranges and is linked to the mining rush back in 1880’s and the establishment of the Arltunga Goldfields. In 1886 explorer David Lindsay thought he had discovered rubies in the bed of the Hale River, which then attracted over 200 people to the area who though they would try their luck as well. However it was soon discovered that the stones weren’t rubies but high grade garnets and no where near as valuable as they thought. Poor buggers!!!! However the name of the park has remained and is a great place for the kids and adults to fossick along the red stained dry river bed searching for these garnets. During our time there we were each able to find a small handful, even though they were quite tiny.
The next day we set off up the dry river bed for a 6km return hike to Glenn Annie Gorge, named by David Lindsay after his wife. Even though the day was only in the low 20’s, the heat of the sun and the heat and stillness being radiated off the rock cliffs and sandy river bed had us working up a sweat. We arrived at the lovely gorge and cooled down in the shade whilst the kids braved the very cold water, however I struggled to keep my feet in there for more than a minute. The managers at Ross River had requested photo evidence of the kids (more so Zoe) swimming in the water as it is renowned for its ‘chilliness’!!!!! We sat and had morning tea, then the kids went for another swim and also explored the rest of the gorge. Once we headed back we spent the afternoon lounging around, relaxing, fossicking and enjoying the spectacular sunset around us. The next day we headed off back to the comfort of our vans back at Ross River.
After we arrived back at the vans, we repacked the car in readiness for heading back to Alice the next day. We had a wonderful time out in the East Macdonnell Ranges and were very glad we decided to spend some time out here. But after a week the washing machine and the action packed Big 4 caravan park were waiting for us back in Alice, so we headed back into town to catch up on schooling, shopping and to organise our next destination on our OZLAP…….